FRIEND OF THE PEOPLE 283
villages. The elders all said with a sad face: It is better nowadays to
have bad crops than to have good crops. In case of floods and
drought, we can skimp and save and somehow live in freedom. But
when a good year comes, the tax-collectors come to the door and the
people are led away in chains. It is worse than death itself/ After
saying this, the elders wiped their eyes, and I shed tears too. Further-
more, in all the towns that I visited, there are hordes of refugees. .. .
"Confucius said: 'An oppressive government is more to be feared
than tigers.' I used to doubt this statement. After seeing the present
conditions, I think what Confucius said was an understatement.
Famines and floods kill hundreds of times more people than tigers,
but today the people of the country fear the tax-collectors even more
than they fear famines and floods. I have made a private calculation
of the number of these tax-collectors. Taking the average of 500 tax-
collectors per district, I estimate there are over 200,000 tigers and
wolves let loose in the whole country to prey upon the people. I ask
Your Majesty, how are the people going to live, and how do you
expect to succeed in establishing a benevolent administration?"
Exactly one month after he sent the first memorandum, he followed
it with a second private letter to the Empress, in which he suggested
the following wording of an edict to be issued by her: "It has come to
*5ur knowledge that in the provinces along the Huai and the Cheh
rivers [Chekiang], there is the greatest amount of outstanding debts
owed by the people to the government. These districts have suffered
from natural calamities for the past years and corpses lie on the road-
side. Although the first wheat harvest is good this year south of the
Huai River, it is yet uncertain what kind of a harvest there will be in
West Chekiang. We therefore wish that all debts owed to the govern-
ment in the districts south, east, and west of the Huai River, and^in
West Chekiang, be suspended for one year, regardless of the age of
these debts and without taking into account whether the capital has
been recovered or not. It is our wish that through this measure our
long-suffering people may have the pleasure of a full belly." Then he
advised the Empress to draw up separate statutes regarding the dis-
posal of all debts according to his previous detailed recommendations.
In July 1092, the recommendation of Su Tungpo was formally issued
as an*edict. His wish was fulfilled and the people's debts to the govern-
ment covered by his memorandum were entirely forgiven.